Saturday, June 16, 2018

Beach Vaca 101 for 2018

Every trip to the beach brings new experiences and new discoveries to add to the list:

Must bring items:
1.  A muffin pan.  Martha White muffin mixes are and easy breakfast treat.  I also discovered from FB, a other muffin pan treat. Line the muffin cups with ham slices, add cheese, then a whole egg, salt and pepper.  Bake 400 degrees, for 15 minutes.

2.  A dash mini waffle iron.   Waffle mix that you just add milk or water, and your babies have a waffle breakfast treat!  The dash mini makes them the size of an Eggo waffle!

3.Quisinart ice cream maker.  Put the mixer bowl in the freezer.  Mix up the 4 ingredients and 20 minutes you have a frozen treat.  Make it the day before and it's good and firm.  No ice or salt needed!

4.  Homemade cookies.  Bag all the dry ingredients in ziploc bags.  Sugars together, flours, salt, and baking soda together.  Mix in wet ingredients at the beach, and bake for a homemade treat!  I also bring parchment paper and a simple cookie scoop.

5.Hand mixer.  I made my chocolate chip cookies by hand, since the condo didn't have a mixer.

6.Margarita machine. (Repeat item) Best discovery ever!  Mix them up overnight, store in ziploc bags.  Use the frozen bags as ice for your beach lunch.  Pour into a steel 30 oz tumbler, add a smoothee straw, and you have a frozen adult beverage that lasts for hours!

7.  Beach wagon, with wide wheels.  Must have for all you bring! The heavier the load, the more you end up dragging instead of pulling.

8. Beach chairs and umbrella.  A three day rental at Sandestin is $100, or $150 if you aren't a card carrying guest.  We go to the beach so often, we bring our own.  Best umbrella ever is the Cool Cabana.  You can find it at

9. Beach.  The beach at Sandestin is usually way over crowded, and the chair rental guys takeover the prime spaces, pushing tent and canopy  users way back from the water.  Down here, Henderson State Park is between Destin and Sandestin and only $6 a car load.  It's never been busy when we go, and you can set up any type of shade at the waters edge.  Worth it if you are going to make it a full day.

10. Bluetooth speaker.  Hook up your favorite Pandora channel without having to use earbuds.  The sound usually doesn't disturb your neighbors.

11. External battery charger.  This will keep your phone battery fully charged, a long with any other USB devices.

12. Rainy day entertainment.  We were here seven days and it rained six of them.  We managed to get some beach time every day, but with several "pack it up quick " moments.

13. Go early.  Best time for restaurant dining is EARLY!   We target 5-5:30 to miss the long wait times for a table.  Sometimes when it's just two of us, we will eat at the bar!

14.  Bacon.  Cook it at home till "floppy".  Place on paper towels.  Once cool, put into ziploc bags and freeze.   At the beach, microwave slices for one minute, and you have crispy bacon without the mess of frying!

15. Plastic tubs.  We store all our kitchen supplies in small plastic tubs.  Paper goods, washing pods, seasonings,  etc...  we restock pack at home, saving on trips to the store for those "local marked up pricing "!

Wow!  15 items for the Beaching 101 list!  Some old ones, but more new!  We have another trip in August, to Hilton Head.  Maybe there will be some new items from the Atlantic coast!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Vaca Foodie Stops

When traveling an Vaca, one must always stay alert for a new foodie stop.  You might see a billboard, a Facebook foodie post, or as my momma says "it looked good from the outside"!  We were ending our trip over the bay bridge to Destin, and spotted Lulu's, next to the boat warehouse that's covered in a mural of whales.  We have been to the one in Gulf Shores, but haven't tried this one, so why not!

The parking up close is limited, so expect to drop off your riders, then go park, with a nice walk back.  The building is open air, with huge garage doors up and lots of fans spinning.  We noticed from the bridge that there was a sea plane in the water.  The pilot will walk by your table and drop off a card, to remind you during your stay that he is available.

We were not sure what we wanted to order until I saw a seafood basket for two on the menu.  It has fish, shrimp, oysters, and crab claws, along with hush puppies and fries.  Granted, it was all fried, but it was oh so good!

I noticed one of the waiters working one of the other tables looked like he wasn't from around these parts.  The only thang missing was a kilt and a sword!

 Can you imagine getting a call from your daughter, "Mom! I met this guy at the beach!  And, we love each other!  Don't tell Dad, I want to surprise him with a visit on Father's day!

He must have really shook me up.  We got down the road, when I suddenly remembered I had left my credit card on the table.  A quick thinking spousal unit made a phone call, and we detoured back to pick it up.  Whew!  Is this a sign that I'm getting old????  One of many!


Along Hwy 98, before you get to the "Premium Outlet Stores" was a new place called Culvers.  They are  a fast food joint, but they also serve custard desserts.  We have been through the drive-thu at several other locations, but have never gone in.  We were waiting for out room to get ready, so why not.
We walked up to the counter, and just stared.  There were so many choices!  The cashier remarked, "take your time, we are used to it."  We were there for the custard.  The chain originated from Wisconsin, and they also have fried cheese curds, which we love.  The custard reminds me of Bops, back in Mississippi.

They have an endless amount of toppings for you to try.

With our early arrival, we were able to check in an hour early and unpack.  Our kids were still in transit, so we decided to go ahead with the first grocery run.  Siri said WinnDixie was the closest (Publix and Walmart a short ride further).  Winn Dixie was an absolute mad house!  It was like bumper cars with the shopping carts!  The cereal row was a wasteland, nothing but a few boxes left on the self!  The deli meat section was like pit row of a NASCAR race, everybody pulling up to the doors with their carts, emptying the shelves before the guy behind them could blink.  On the end of aisles, and down thew rows, there were abandoned carts, half filled.  Is this the Zombie Apocalypse?????

We survived the checkout line, with everything on our list.  I can just imagine what the first night restaurant scene would be! Shrimp boil condo style for us!

Stay tuned.  more to come.....

Rituals of the First Day of Vaca

Every summer brings with it the rites of passage to the holy grail, the white sugary sands of the Florida Panhandle.  You would think, as many times as I have made this trip to Beach Mecca, it would be same old thing.  But no.....!

The spousal unit left for a conference down south several days early.  That left me with the responsibility (as always) of packing the car, securing the house, and saying good bye to Otis, our resident travel dog.  Otis knows when its travel time.  He sees the suitcase, and hops right on in.  He then starts his all loving dog routine, like you can't not take me, the sweet lovable travel dog!

I get up early, and load the remaining items into the car.  Otis is watching....All done, I'm like, whoops, where are the car keys???  I tear the house apart looking for them.  I've now retraced my steps at least 15 times.  Well crap, on to the car.  I can't just switch cars, the rack on the back is secured with a lock, and the key is with the others.  I checked all the usual suspect spots where I might have laid them.  No keys.  I pull everything out and give each box the eagle eye.  No keys.  Otis has not left the house, with the door wide open.

I am now sweating, a;most in a panic, and haven't left the driveway.  One more time into the house.  I've formed a mental check list, and gone through it countless times.  There's Otis, calmly sitting in the middle of our bed.  Ok, one last desperate thought.  I brush Otis aside and I begin pulling back the covers.  As I'm doing so, I swear I heard Otis snicker.  The covers are pulled back, and in the middle of the bed, are the KEYS!!!!!   One of these days Otis, one of these days!

Our usual route to the Florida Panhandle takes us through Hattiesburg to Hwy 98, and then we turn on Hwy 63, at Lucedale, to I-10.  We miss all the stop and go 98 traffic through North Mobile.  This adds a few minutes, but its four lane all the way and only a few traffic lights, some of which are usually green light.  If traffic is heavy on I-10, then we opt for the Bay Bridge route over Mobile Bay.

I had to make a Costco stop, and it is co convenient, being off the first exit of I-65.  The spousal unit sent me the shopping list, via pictures of the items by text message!  Ain't technology great!

  Several friends Facebooked me about these new Vodka infused ice pops.  I'm looking, and looking.  This sweet young thang interrupts me and asked if she could help me.  I tell her about the ice pops.  Wouldn't you know it, "Oh, I'm sorry, this is my first day, I'm not sure, but maybe they're in the liquor store next door.!  She wasn't very helpful, but she sure was purdy!  Next door, I wait my tum, that's what you do in Costco (unlike Sam's).  I ask the cashier about the ice pops.  He gives me that look.... He then begins to recite the preamble to the constitution, They are only available out west, in three states.....I think he has said this 100 times today already!

Mission accomplished!

Since it is right at noon, on a Friday, and traffic is calm, I go the tunnel route.  No problems.  Once I exit the tunnel, and get to daylight, all I see are cars, trucks, and 18 wheelers, as far as the eye can see!  Fortunately, they were all pointed in the other direction!  I picked up the spousal unit at the Grand, at Point Clear, and then we were off!

You can tell when you get to Florida on I-10, as they have these nice  welcome signs at the State line.  Some travelers stop and take pictures.  Me, I like the jets mounted in the air at the first rest stop.  We take the Crestwell exit to the toll bridge at Niceville. We invested in a Florida Sunpass years ago and it has been well worth it.  As you approach the bridge, stay left, and avoid the pay line with all those other cars lined up, waiting their turn!  You know you are near when at the other end of the bridge you can spot the boat storage warehouse with the whale murals!  The beach is near!!!!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Preachers and Barbeque!

This being memorial day and all, there aren't a whole lot of restaurant choices.  We were in Oxford, so I knew the pickings were gonna be slim.  As I was making my way through the FB new feed, I saw where Pig & Pint was open all day.  Winner, winner, pork rib dinner!

We stopped by the house, to refresh ourselves, and I remembered that Pig & Pint was pet friendly.  Ole Otis is always ready for another car ride.  I was hoping for a cool evening and a close parking spot, since the restaurant has limited indoor seating, and the neighborhood ain't in one of the best locations.

I dropped off Otis and the spousal Unit so they could save us a spot at one of the outside picnic tables.  After parking, I made my way back to the restaurant.  It was not hard to find, I just followed my nose, sniffing the wood smoke back to the pit!  After placing the order, I joined Otis & Momma.

Seated across from us, was a young couple.  I could tell she weren't from around these parts, since she was eating brisket tacos, but her hubby had a mouth full of pulled pork sammach!  They were newlyweds since last July, both involved in the Lutheran Ministry.  He was a local, and she was from Minnesota, I knew it!  I don't know much about no Lutheran, but we all knew about dogs, and the cookies from Campbell's Bakery just around the corner.

After their departure our double picnic table filled up fast.  Turns our it was a whole bunch of Methodist preachers and such.  One was a district superintendent, and another was a Bishop.  We almost had enough board pieces for a game of chess!  They all were here for the "Pre-conference" before the Conference.  We figured out who all the players were, and the spousal unit mentioned that we were members of St. Marks, out at the Rez.  Did they know Keith Keeton?  Boy!  Did they ever!  I used to refer to Keith as my young buck preacher, but now he has enough grey hairs that I had to drop the young part!

We then started playing the guessing game.  I mentioned that I used to run the sound board, and we had one preacher that I referred to as the "15 minute man".  All his sermon's were no longer than 15 minutes.  I figured he had standing reservations at several restaurants.  I mentioned his first name, "Jim", and one of those preachers responded "that would be Jim Curtis!"  Yep! nailed him!  I then mentioned another preacher Jim, with white hair, that has been known to take several phone calls during his sermons.  Another one of those preachers yelled out "that's ole Matheny!"  Dang, these guys are good!

I was short on some of the others names, but told them that we could go to the church and review the wall of shame!  Nobody ever remembers the good parts about a preacher's stay, but you can always come up with some of the bad!

Before we left, I reminded them that since the West Jackson Superintendent was present, they all should be the banana fosters pudding and put it on his tab!
Table full of Preachers!

I posted this picture to Facebook and tagged my buddy Keith Keeton in it, and told them to add any comments they would like.  We'll see how far out of their preacher comfort zones they are willing to go!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

I got balls!

Well, it' the last home series for the spousal unit's team vs the Auburn Tigers/War Eagles and she doesn't want to miss it.  First game was on Thursday night,  thank you ESPN, so now we're pushing up I-55 to catch most of game 2, then game 3 on Saturday afternoon.

The great thing about late arrival, is the shuttle service from the south lot, just park and ride! As we are walking up to the shuttle stop, I notice all these shuttles returning with passengers?  Then,  other women are walking up, carrying all these fancy bags and purses!

Ladies! It's the last home series!  The clear bag policy has been in effect since last September!   They all stand there in disbelief!  Well, SOMEBODY is gonna have to go back to the car! Now on the shuttle, the driver is waiting for these two women, one on and one not, saying their daughters attend school here and their daughters knew nothing about the clear bag policy!  I'm sitting next to the driver, and I tell him, he can go now, because those two women will be talking about this for hours!

We arrive at the front gate of the stadium, and there are even more of these women walking up with all these purses and colored bags.  The looks on their faces was priceless when they were told, sorry, no bag, then the realization that SOMEBODY was headed back to the parking lot!

Keep in mind, this policy went into effect last September.   There are road side billboards explaining it.  There are placards on all the roads leading to campus.  The warning is even printed on the ticket!  The only explanation would be that they are all black bears coming out of hibernation, this is graduation weekend, and this is their first time on campus in four years!  This ole bulldog was laughing his head off in black bear country!

It's now the 3rd inning, I head to our seats, and the spousal unit makes her two water stops, one drop off and one to drink.  I make my way down the aisle, and notice people in our seats.  No biggie, they can just move on, since these are our season tickets versus their general admission ticket stub. Wrong.....

I say hey buddy, those two seats belong to me and my wife.  Apparently, it' a family of four (adult and teenagers).  The poppa bear immediately starts throwing out profanity at me!  "You f...king asshole, you want to break up a family of four?  Sorry buddy, those are my seats, see this ticket, what does yours say?  He throws out more vulgar insults, ending with "I need to plant my fist on your face!"  I reply, not the time or place little man (a foot shorter than me), you need to move on.  He did...

I sit down, then all my neighbors begin to chime in.  Lady in front, "I'm confrontational but you looked like you had it handled.  Guy behind,  "nice to meet you f...king asshole, I'm Tom".  Guy to the left "I know who I'm calling when somebody is in my seat!" Guy in front "if he took you out, I was gonna catch you!"  Girl behind, "man you got balls bigger than my dad!"

Dang!  I know who to call in a crisis!  I can't wait to see them at game 3!  Now I need a foul ball to add to my collection!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Double Decker Weekend

With April comes the Double Decker Festival.  And with it, we had the Ole Miss vs LSU baseball series.  The weather was great, Arts, Food, Music, and people, OMG the people!

Thursday night was an ESPN thing, with Ole Miss winning in a runaway game.  Friday night did not disappoint, with the Spousal Unit's Rebels coming up a little short.  Our crew decided to make a stop downtown for a bite and to catch up on the gossip.  My buddy Paul has a secret parking space that's just two blocks off the Square.  South Taco Depot was the destination.

As we rounded the corner, there were two horse patrolmen blocking the sidewalk.   Three patrol cars were also there blocking the road.  And, a little further down, three more horse patrolmen in formation had the street covered.  Security for night one of Double Decker?  Nope.  Next door to the restaurant at the Lyric, a shot had been fired, with an injured person.  This just happened before our arrival!  Nobody goes down the street, nobody leaves the area!

Eventually we were allowed to enter the restaurant, which was full of students enjoying their favorite adult beverages.  Those "21" year olds were packed in there like sardines!  And there was no leaving with any cup in hand!  A few conversations with security, and we were up to speed.  The next day, the police report indicated that a patron had shot a round up in the air, and a girl got cut on broken glass on the rush to exit the scene!  Glad I had my pocket knife on me at the ready!

The Double Decker Festival got kicked off Saturday morning at 10:00.  All the downtown roads are blocked off, and the parking lots are restricted to event staff and vendor use.  You either hike it for quite a bit, or park at the High School and do the $5 shuttle ride.  We opted for the shuttle service.

We arrived at the high school, and the line was quite long.  After parking, we joined the wait.  In this world of "I want it now!" our line began to shrink.  A rumor was going down the line that one of the buses had broken down.  People in front of us began thinning out.  Patience people, patience!  Eventually the two buses returned for the next load.  The buses dropped us off one street off from the Square!

The Courthouse was surrounded by vendors selling their food items.  We made the circle, looking to see if the "fried pie" lady was present.  Dang.  No spot for her this year.  Those pies are oh, so, good!  I think the longest line was at the Regions Bank ATM!  Don't people think to bring cash to these things anymore?????  I ended up with a tasty smoked turkey leg, and the Spousal Unit got a chicken bacon ranch wrap.  Making your way around the Courthouse was an adventure whe you spend your time dodging the wagons, strollers, dogs, service carts, and the 600 lb lady in the double wide electric scooter!  She was literally plowing her way through the crowd with her entourage in tow! Time to move on....

We made our way past all the vendor tents.  Yep, seen all this before....  It kills me to see how many people buy the bird feeders year after year!  We finally made the turn, and were headed back to the bus pickup line.  Oh, and we did see the two double decker buses two blocks down on Jackson Avenue, full of parents and kids taking the tour.  Now time to head back to the campus for the baseball game!

I dropped the spousal unit off in front of the Ford Center, then I went searching for a spot.  This was almost 2 hours before the game!  No luck in the Ford Center Lot.  I called the Spousal Unit and suggested she begin her walk without me.  I headed to the South Lot near Hwy 6 and caught the shuttle back to the stadium.  As I entered the concourse, there was the SU only 30 paces in front of me!  Who knew!

The third game of the series with LSU would be a nail biter!  Ole Miss took an early lead, but the wheels fell off the pitching staff and LSU took a big lead.  Then, Thomas Dillard smashed one so hard over right field, that the students under it forgot to toss up their beer in the traditional celebration!  Ole Miss had a two run lead in the top of the ninth.  The bases got loaded up, and the closer ended up walking in a run.  In dramatic fashion, the next batter hit one to the fence, but it was caught for out number three! What a fitting ending to the game and our Double Decker Weekend!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Beach trip on Friday the 13th

I planned this trip over 10 months ago, a beach trip for the Spousal Unit's birthday.   This is not any beach, but Miramar at Sandestin, where the water is clear and the sand is like sugar!

We got a late start Thursday night, with me tossing the necessities into the car:  cool cabanas, chairs, wagon, yeti with already made Rita, and two CPAP machines!

For us to be old timers at this, you would think we would be more prepared!  No beach bag, no beach towel, no sun screen, limited snacks, but plenty of Ritas!

As soon as you top the slight hill on the board walk, you can smell the salt air.  When you reach the crest, you get the sight you have been waiting for all winter, that emerald green and blue water!  Yes!  BEACH!

We pick our spot, and pull out the two cool cabanas.   It's been a while!  One canopy is brand new, a replacement for one stolen in Fort Myers last summer.  We almost forgot how easy the Set up was.  Chairs were in place in no time!

In an instant, I was bird watching  from my favorite perch, beach chair in the shade!  First sighting was an orange crusted strut butt.  That ole gal was giving it her all in her attempts to get her umbrella anchored in the sand.  The Spousal Unit has a sharper eye, noting that one of the girls in this particular covey of birds was the niece of one of her high school classmates.  How women are able to keep up with all that is beyond me!

A little boy and his dad were sneaking up very slowly and quietly.   He whispered to us "I'm gonna catch me one of those birds, but you have to be very quiet....".  His dad had beer in hand.  I told him, "hey, no drinking while on the hunt!"

All around us were these coveys of women!  The first one we spotted had that familiar face in it.  The one behind us, was a bachelorette trip, all in their 40's.  One was a recent widow, and the others were trying to spot her a prize!  We overheard them making up commentary about the events occurring around them.  We were doing the same!

This one woman had on this one piece skin tight onesie!  That suit was from head to toe!  Then she came out with this cape!  Her onesie reminded me of those beach blankets that doesn't let the sand come through!  With the cape, she could have quickly become a beach kite!

It's funny to watch these birds use up a whole spray can of sun screen in just four squirts!  The rest becomes airborne and heads down wind!  The gal with the vaping habit had a strange taste in flavors that we all got to smell down wind!

The young bucks spent the day getting up their courage through cans of beer.  They decided they would all succeed or all go down in a ball of flames with an attempted hit on one of the many coneys around them.  Crash and burn they did!

I think all the women over 40 were on sensory alert overload.  They all spotted the one girl that had way too much to drink, being cared for by some guy she had just met today.  We got a recap of her day from the bachelorette party that had been measuring her up all day!  We are goimg to meet up with them tomorrow to add another chapter to "a day at the beach"!

Stay tuned......